Jay Rodriguez scores twice as West Brom take the spoils on Boxing Day at the Hawthorns.
- Match Report: West Bromwich Albion 2 Latics 0
- Jay Rodriguez scored both goals at the Hawthorns.
- Gavin Massey returned for his first start since August and Chey Dunkley also made a comeback.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION 2
Rodriguez 8, 69
WIGAN ATHLETIC 0
The annual Boxing Day fixture ended in defeat for Latics, as Jay Rodriguez scored twice to seal victory for West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
Promotion chasing Baggies were headed in front by their talisman striker, before he doubled the lead with a fierce volley with 20 minutes remaining.
Callum McManaman was introduced in the second half and looked lively for Latics, creating a number of chances and forcing two West Brom bookings, but Paul Cook's men couldn't find a way through.
Latics made four changes from the 3-0 defeat to the Baggies' rivals Birmingham City, with Chey Dunkley returning from a knee problem to partner Cedric Kipre in defence, moving Dan Burn out to left back. Gavin Massey was drafted in to make his first start since August due to a hamstring injury, whilst Callum Connolly came into midfield and Joe Garner started up front.
Lee Evans, Nathan Byrne, Gary Roberts and James Vaughan made way, with the latter unavailable for the match day squad after he was replaced through injury against Blues before Christmas.
Latics started brightly in the opening five minutes when the returning Massey linked up with Josh Windass on the right side, with the latter skipping in behind and seemingly tumbled by a challenge from behind, but referee Robert Jones waved any claims for a penalty away.
Three minutes later the hosts found the target with their first attempt, the lively Dwight Gayle keeping the ball in on the by-line, before standing up a cross into the middle for Rodriguez to head powerfully into the right corner.
Gayle claimed a well-crafted assist, but was replaced seconds later due to injury, Hal Robson-Kanu on for the forward.
Full back Reece James tested Sam Johnstone shortly after when he forced the former Manchester United goalkeeper into a dangerous parry, but Johnstone was saved his blushes by a recovering defender as Connolly attempted to reach the loose ball in the box.
Massey looked bright on his return to the starting XI, twice intercepting high up the pitch, but each time the move broke down once he'd released possession to a team mate.
Christian Walton, who was making his 100th career league appearance, was called into action in the 19th minute, saving low to his left with a big left hand to deny substitute Robson-Kanu.
The Brighton & Hove Albion loanee was in action again 10 minutes later, back-tracking to his line to push Harvey Barnes' looping deflected cross over the bar. A smart stop as it seemed to be dropping dangerously.
Latics had a chance to force an equaliser late in the half, but nobody could take advantage of Kal Naismith's free kick from a good position to the right of the penalty area.
Shortly after the break McManaman was introduced against his former club and throughout his 35 or so minutes on the pitch he looked a threat in every attack.
Within minutes head forced the referee into booking West Brom full back Kieran Gibbs for hauling him down from behind after clever footwork. Rob Jones had his card out again soon after, this time for Baggies' captain Jake Livermore following a crunching challenge on McManaman.
From the resulting free kick, James' delivery was diverted to Massey at the back post, but after clever control, his right footed effort was whipped over the bar.
Walton was called into action moments before conceding a second of the game. Firstly, he pulled off and excellent save from Harvey Barnes' effort from distance, but from the resulting corner and play that followed, he couldn't deny Rodriguez his second of the game. The striker's right footed volley on the turn from the edge of the area was too powerful for the keeper who seemed to get a touch.
At the other end McManaman continued to ask questions of the West Brom defence, continually drawing fouls and carving holes in the hosts' defence.
Latics came closer and closer to pegging West Brom back, but with four minutes remaining James saw a clever free kick around the wall from a tight angle cannon back off the outside of the right post.
Second half substitute Lee Evans fired over shortly after from James' cut back, before McManaman's twisting and turning inside the area looked to have paid off, only for his right footed effort to be diverted wide off the head of Ahmed Hegazi.
Despite a late headed effort from substitute Will Grigg, it simply wasn't to be at the Hawthorns on Boxing Day.
Latics now face a trip to Swansea City on Saturday, seeing out the year on the road at the Liberty Stadium.
West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone, Gibbs (Brunt 81), Livermore (Capt) (Morrison 71), Phillips, Barry, Barnes, Gayle (Robson-Kanu 10), Rodriguez, Adarabioyo, Dawson, Hegazi
Unused Subs: Myhill, Mears, Sako, Harper
Latics: Walton, Morsy (Capt), Windass (McManaman 54), Massey (Evans 76), James, Naismith, Kipre, Dunkley, Connolly, Burn, Garner (Grigg 77)
Unused Subs: Jones, Byrne, Gibson, Roberts